Instagram Becoming Hot New Marketplace for Unrestricted Gun Sales


From antique pistols to high-powered assault rifles, Instagram has emerged as the leading online marketplace for guns. And, even more troubling, it seems few of the sales violate the law or even Instagram policy.

The problem was initially reported by The Daily Beast in a recent article. According to the report, a search for #gun or #guns among the #forsale listings on Instagram turns up hundreds of offers for everything from tiny Beretta pistols to mini-arsenals.

Federal laws generally don’t cover private sales of firearms between individuals, while state laws vary widely and are hard to enforce. And since Instragram wasn’t set up as a marketplace, there are no formal policies on what can and can’t be sold through the service.

Here’s what a search for the hashtag #gunforsale brings up on Webstagram:


Gun safety advocates say the result is a gaping loophole for buyers and sellers looking to avoid background checks and other restrictions on commercial transactions.

“We are definitely concerned about the public safety implications of unregulated online gun sales,” Sam Hoover, a staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told Daily Beast. “Primarily the ability of sellers to skirt background checks and trafficking in firearms — both legal and illegal guns — to prohibited persons.”

Occasionally, though, the system can backfire on the seller. A Brooklyn rapper who arranged and bragged about selling guns via Instagram was arrested in August in what city officials called their largest firearms bust ever, netting more than 250 guns and 19 indictments.

(via The Daily Beast)

Image credit: Gun Show by M Glasgow

  • notagunowner

    Nothing illegal about private sales (whether instagram, craigslist, ebay, etc…) if they go through an FFL dealer to complete the transaction. The buyer still has to wait 10 days as his application goes to the Justice Dept. background check. This article assumes everybody selling and buying firearms through these channels are irresponsible citizens trying to skirt the law. Because they can doesn’t mean they do.

  • Steve Davis

    “And, even more troubling, it seems few of the sales violate the law or even Instagram policy.”

    Why is it troubling that the sales are not illegal?
    The author can take his bias and shove it.

  • junyo

    “Federal laws generally don’t cover private sales of firearms between individuals…” Incorrect. All Federal laws apply, mostly in the form of if you are a prohibited person, you can’t legally own a firearm, period. Whether you buy it from a dealer, a private seller, it’s a gift from your girlfriend, or Santa dropped it down the chimney. Prohibited person looking to buy a firearm=regulated. The only real ‘loophole’ is that private sellers don’t have access to NICS/state background check systems, therefore are not required to run checks on whether the purchaser is in fact a prohibited person. Most private sellers address this via using an FFL as an intermediary to perform the check before transfer, or collecting/recording ID info from the purchaser

    More importantly – to a photography blog – the idea that this makes Instagram part of some market for “unregulated online gun sales” is nonsensical (beyond the fact that the sales are ‘unregulated’ only by the fact that one or more parties to the sale may be ignoring existing regulations). This could happen on any site that allows image upload and metadata or tag searches. So unless they want to ban the internet or images tags, there’s not a real story here, just the intersection of Ludditism and nanny-statism. It’s just like that time that making Craigslist take down adult service listings dried up all the prostitution in America.

  • TSY87

    seriously!! just because someone posts an ad on instagram does NOT mean they are going to sell it illegally… Granted there are a lot of dumb people in the world….

    Its the same as saying if i posted a picture of my car on instagram to draw up interest for a sale does not mean im going to skirt all of the law for the paperwork/registration that comes with the sale.

  • zaakir

    yup, blatant anti gun type. typical liberal writer bias. i caught that quote as well.

  • MattB81

    While the legal matters of selling a firearm have been more than covered by previous commentors below, lets take the next part of relevance to this article. On Webstagram (your source for showing how many are being sold) there are at the time of me posting this 1,801,038 results for #forsale while #gunforsale returned a total of 95.

    Now just going down the listings of #forsale I find jewelry, clothing, ATV’s and all manner of items.

    I think the real story here is that Instagram is quickly becoming a make shift marketplace for all manner of items and the individuals who want to sell them. Given that you point out in your own article that few of the gun sales break any laws, your hold on the gun topic to me becomes a simple push to look only as many do at only one small pin prick piece of the puzzle.

    Now if you really want to make a point the questions can be asked, should Instagram put policies into place to manage this type of behavior? What other illegal items could possibly be sold? What is the likely hood of a large number of people performing illegal transactions on a system which can be used to easily track them down? Considering how often police are now catching criminals on social media like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook do you really think there is a huge valid concern here or are you simply trying to spread your own personal agenda.

    Finally this is a photography site and while I understand Instagram is a photo sharing app that often comes up in articles I feel it’s an amazing stretch to fit this article into the community.

  • Ryan

    How is this news related to PP?

  • Jason

    Sweet now I know where to buy my gun and not have to worry about the NSA knowing and classifying me as a terrorist

  • Hyper Bollocks

    Petapixel is crossing the #usefulidiot line into #PoliticaCorrectness with this stretch of the imagination. Don’t #ShitWhereYouEat. It will be your undoing.

  • narikovera

    мʏ вɛѕт ғʀιɛɴɖ’ѕ ѕтɛք-мօтнɛʀ мαĸɛѕ $64/нօυʀ օɴ тнɛ ƈօмքυтɛʀ. ѕнɛ нαѕ вɛɛɴ աιтнօυт աօʀĸ ғօʀ 7 мօɴтнѕ вυт ʟαѕт мօɴтн нɛʀ քαʏ ƈнɛƈĸ աαѕ $17700 ʝυѕт աօʀĸιɴɢ օɴ тнɛ ƈօмքυтɛʀ ғօʀ α ғɛա нօυʀѕ. ʏօυ ƈօυʟɖ ƈнɛƈĸ нɛʀɛ…­ ­

  • Nathan Blaney

    This is absurd. While there’s always SOMEONE who will do something, it doesn’t mean any significant number of people will.

  • Jude S-R

    This is the most idiotic post I’ve ever seen on petapixel. Sorry, but this article is not really anything to do with photography, which is what I’ve assumed PP is about until now.

    Also … um … selling a gun and buying a gun isn’t illegal. After reading the blatant use of ‘scare tactic’ language and easily recognizable anti-gun bias, it almost seems as if the author is unaware of the actual laws of the land.

    Americans can both walk into a gas station and buy gum, and we can also walk up to a person and buy a gun … and they are both perfectly legal actions. So … why this pointless article, other than to talk about how ‘bad’ people who own guns are or could be?

    It would make sense if buying and selling a gun was illegal, but its not. Therefore? Dumb. Seriously. Very badly articulated and presented article, as well as not having anything to do with photography.


  • Jude sr

    So … this response wins the internet. :D

  • Hyper Bollocks


  • Tim

    Load of disinformation here. Federal laws generally don’t cover private sales of firearms between individuals…” Blatant ignorance of the law.

  • Horange Cones

    The authors agenda is leaking all over the floor.

    “Clean up on aisle 3!”

  • Mort

    I wanted to stop reading this bias article once I hit that line. Just report the news, don’t try to push your political. I’m so tired of people being vilified because they own/sell guns.

  • Mort

    Uh Oh Jason. They have already seen this post… RUN! …crap, now I’m on the terrorist list for affiliating myself with you and your “extremist” views! Oh well, I knew they’d catch me eventually – I bought some 9mm last week at wally world.

  • nerdbomber

    I, for one, appreciate this article. To the people who have commented negatively about this post, you are entitled to your opinion and no one is forcing you to visit this website. I feel that this article is very relevant to PP in that Instagram is a photography hub used by many people(including most of the photographers reading this). Just watch the news on TV or read the newspaper, there’s so much gun violence in our society… and some of those weapons are purchased illegally.

    (Keep in mind, I have nothing against people owning/purchasing guns legally. I just don’t appreciate people posting such ignorant comments against this article.)